Whether it's your job or a new hobby we all want to be successful in the things we try. Whether you want to impress your boss at work, be a more attentive partner, or be more organized around the house, sometimes we reflect and decide we want to do things better.
This post has some tips on how you can set yourself up for success in whatever endeavor you're embarking upon.
why should you prioritize personal growth?
You may be thinking "things are going fine, why risk upsetting the status quo?"
Personal development involves reflection, goal setting, and stretching our limits. It helps us realize our potential and fulfil a purpose in life that we ourselves set. You learn new things, take on new responsibilities and grow in your abilities allowing you to adapt to change, overcome challenges, and reach goals.
The effort you put into personal development is always worth it, because whether you succeed in whatever you set out to do or not, you develop resiliency and acquire new capabilities and knowledge not just about what you were trying to do but also about yourself. These improvements help us become better people - in all of our relationships.
Making small changes in your life can lead to a larger impact, both by their cumulative effects but also because the process of implementing those changes helps you develop the traits and skills to implement bigger changes down the line.
Photo by Mariya Pampova on Unsplash
look at what needs to improve
Take a close look at your habits and patterns, or at what's been bothering you over the past few months. Whether this is a personal habit you want to implement, like starting daily walks, a new hobby to try, like learning an instrument, or something for work like STL training - brainstorm and write it down.
Once you have a few ideas, prioritize what makes sense to try right now. If they are all equally important or urgent, select the smallest or easiest one for you to try first. Write down the reason you want to pursue this - when things get tough, you can come back and remind yourself why you're doing this.
create a plan of action
Next, it's important to come up with a plan of action. The easiest way to get derailed early on is to set a vague goal with no action steps.
Make sure your goal is specific. Instead of "learn to play piano", think back to the reason you want to learn to play, and select a concrete goal, such as "learn to play Happy Birthday on the piano".
Then write down the steps it takes to get there. Research is helpful at this point. For our piano example, search online for "how to learn piano as an adult". You'll also need a piano to play on, so research how much different options cost, fi you can find a used one or rent time at a local studio, and if you need to save money for your purchase.
For an idea like "eat healthier", we might set a more concrete goal like "bring my lunch to work 3 days a week and eat dinner at home 4 days a week". To achieve this, you need to think about lunch and dinner ideas that you can prepare at home, look at your calendar to see when you will carve out time to prep your lunch and cook your dinners, and make time to go to the store to get the ingredients you need. Maybe you decide to do meal prep on Sundays for the entire week, and sometimes take leftovers for lunch. Or maybe you will try some frozen single-serve dinners from the grocery store.
have the right mindset
In the first step I had you identify the reason you chose the change you did. There has to be a reason why this idea keeps nagging you month after month, or maybe New Year after New Year. It's important to circle back to that reason when things get tough. You can also refer back to what I wrote at the beginning of this post - how no matter how successful you are in making this change, you will learn things about yourself along the way and develop your planning skills and resiliency to change and failure.
Here are my rebuttals to your excuses:
When things get hard, if you feel yourself falling back into old habits and a mindset of "it's too hard" or "I can't do it" or "it's not worth it" - you can tell yourself that's not true.
It's too hard - you can do hard things. Think of other tough things you've gone through - why did you persevere that time and not this time?
I can't do it - you've put in time to plan your steps to achieve this goal. What is happening that is making you feel like you can't do it? Maybe your schedule this week got hectic and you couldn't practice your piano or make your lunches. That isn't the end of the world. Instead acknowledge the obstacle, think of ways around it, and then restart on your journey towards change as things wind down.
It's not worth it - the second thing you did was outline why you prioritized this change and why it is important to you. Now, think about a time int he future where this change is now second nature to you. It's natural and easy to pack your lunch and prep meals at home. You actually enjoy cooking dinner, and with the money you've saved from not eating out you feel more in control of your finances. Or with piano, you love being the person who can play Happy Birthday at the birthday parties. In fact, you've now learned 3 more songs!
focus on one thing
It takes time to develop new habits and break old ones. Just as you get into the swing of things, don't add on a new goal to try. I recommend new goals only every 6 months - so that's 2 changes per year, maximum.
Whether practice is literal, like practicing the piano several times a week, every week, or more in line with "be consistent to see goals", it's important.
If you are trying to make changes that will persevere - like healthy eating as a lifestyle change (not another fad diet), then you need to be consistent in achieving the action steps you set; reflective in looking at why things go wrong (like in the mindset step); and reactive to course correct when needed.
If you are going to the gym and lifting weights in an effort to get stronger and lose weight, it may take several months before you start seeing results. Think of 'markers' of success other than weight loss or a change in your pant size that you can use to keep going when you feel discouraged. Keep a journal about how you feel after workouts, and periodically read back to older entries. Write down or use an app to track how much weight you're lifting - have you gotten stronger? Is your endurance better - can you do more exercises in a single session now?
find a mentor or community
A support system is important when making changes. Whether you share your plans with a friend and ask them to check in with you to keep you accountable, or you and your friend are embarking upon the same journey, a support system can be the key to success for some people.
You can also find a mentor or a community to help you not only stick with your changes but learn more. From meet-up groups to Facebook groups, it can be encouraging to connect with others who have similar interests or are going through similar struggles on their development journey.
celebrate small wins
Rome wasn't built in a day! Set small goals for yourself and then celebrate your progress! Reflect on what keeps you motivated and do more of that. If you have a friend joining you on the journey, but it's become a hindrance, lean into that and share with them you'd like to keep-on on your own.
learn from your mistakes
The benefit of learning from your mistakes is one of the reasons personal development, even for small goals, is always worth it. Successful people learn from their mistakes, seeing 'failure' as an opportunity to grow and improve. So, the next time you go off-course, don't beat yourself up about it and give-up but take a step back, analyze what went wrong and why, and make a plan on how to see if coming next time.
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